Ethiopia’s parliament, in a unanimous decision on Thursday 1 November, confirmed the appointment of the prominent women’s rights activist, Meaza Ashenafi, as Ethiopia’s first female Federal Supreme Court President following her nomination by reformist Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed.
The 53-year-old brings a track record of competence and relevant experience to her new role. Prior to her appointment, Ashenafi served as a High Court Judge and participated in drafting the Ethiopian Constitution two decades ago, which now enables women a broad range of political, social, legal and economic rights.
The Benishangul-Gumuz born received her first degree in law from Addis Ababa University and master’s degree in International Relations from the United States Kentucky University. The mother of two is the founder and executive director of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA).
Ashenafi’s appointment comes barely a week after the swearing-in of Sahle-Work Zewde, Ethiopia’s first female president and the appointment of a perfectly gender-balanced cabinet. This tilts the country’s entire leadership structure towards a more balanced gender representation.
In 2003, she became a Hunger Project Award laureate, winning the Grassroots Ethiopian Women of Substance Africa Prize. By 2015, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She worked under the African Center for Gender and Social Development of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa, helped lead the development of the first women’s bank in Ethiopia, Enat Bank and chairs the bank’s board of directors since 2016.
Ashenafi will take over from Dagne Melaku who resigned after serving as the president of the Federal Supreme court for a year. She will be assisted by Solomon Areda Waktolla, who was also appointed vice president of the Supreme Court.